A different kind of church
A Voice in the Wilderness
I love the place where the rubber of religion and spirituality touch the road. I was invited to the A Voice in the Wilderness church a few months ago, and while I’d kept it on the back burner … you know how that back burner can be. At any rate, on Sunday, I awakened and had a yen for something real, so I hopped on my bicycle for the short trek to the corner of Ryland Street and Wells Avenue.
“Good morning, brother,” said the friendly man in tie and suspenders, “coming to the service this morning?”
I could tell immediately I was in for something different. This was not what anyone would call an upscale church. Please, don’t take that as pretension; this was as sincere a service as I’ve attended. But if it weren’t within the walls of the little strip mall storefront between Sonny’s Discount Liquor Store and Caesars Beauty World, I’d say it was a street mission. The congregation was an intriguing mix, ranging from families with young children to intoxicated men to people who looked homeless to well-dressed people like the guy who met me at the door.
The sanctuary was a not very wide but deep room. The chancel held a wooden lectern with a cross on the front, big Peavey amps, and a few instruments. Unfortunately, the music team was gone Sunday, although we got to sing and move along to pre-recorded hymns. The walls were eggshell white cinderblock, the floors covered in burgundy carpets, and the chairs were dusty rose-colored and padded. I’d estimate there was room for about 70 people, and there were probably 40 in attendance.
I found myself fascinated by Pastor Danny Rost. He introduced himself almost immediately upon my arrival. He’s a very charismatic speaker who just radiates energy. And he’s funny, down to earth, and not afraid to talk about his history with alcohol and drugs. It was a little strange how I could sense that even when he was giving an impassioned interpretation of a Bible scripture, his mind was operating on several levels—taking note of the members of his flock, the guy who struggled a bit with the multi-media system, even what was going on in the entryway and outside. He was totally comfortable, impassioned and genuine. He was wearing blue jean shorts and a black T-shirt and hat—not your father’s preacher.
“We’ve all got this idea of what church is, well, we’ve been lied to,” he said. “Church is a place for fellowship. Church is a place where you come to let the power of God change you and make you a better man or woman. The house of God is for everyone.”
The majority of his sermon, “Desperate for God,” focused on the idea of being born again. He said God saves us many times, even when he’s not asked, but it takes being born again to receive salvation. I think he was referring to the early part of John 1 at the time.
“It doesn’t matter how many times God saves you—you can still go to hell,” he said. “To get to heaven, you must be born again.”
While I can be sure that this isn’t the church for everyone, I can tell you this kind of stuff speaks to me. This man and his people are actively engaged in ministering to the poor, feeding the hungry, and offering friendship to the lonely and imprisoned. So who cares that some of these people came directly from the bar to the church? I’ve known many more who reversed the process.